Barnet - The Billion Pound Gamble. Why do I oppose it? Because it is inherently risky. Today I've spoken to two journalists. One was from he Guardian, who are taking an in depth look at One Barnet. The other was from a freelance journalist, who I assumed was doing a piece for a outsourcers trade journal. The first interview involved all of the Barnet bloggers and was filmed. I am intrigued to see how we all come across. Over the course of the last four years, I've got to know the other bloggers quite well. I have ultimate respect for their abilities. I think we made a pretty coherent case for Barnet abandoning One Barnet in its current form. I would love for the five of us to sit around a table with whoever is championing One Barnet and film the conversation. I have no doubt who would win that debate.
Later this afternoon I took a call from a "freelance journalist" to discuss the response of bloggers to One Barnet. I asked who else they'd spoken to. No one, was the answer. I sometimes get paranoid about such calls. Of all the five bloggers, I consider myself the thickest by a country mile. Being dyslexic, I need figures in front of me otherwise I can get the wrong. It was clear straight away that I was being interviewed with a view to rubbishing the arguments of local bloggers. Here is a rough transcript of the conversation (from memory).
J = Journalist, RT = Me,
J - "I'm researching an article about outsourcing and the One Barnet project strikes me as a very exciting and challenging concept, you are one of the leading local critics and I'd like to find out a bit more about why"
RT - "I'd prefer to use the terms risky and dangerous, but fire away".
J - "I've been reading your blog, what did you know about outsourcing before you started writing a blog about the One Barnet program?"
RT - Actually quite a lot. Before I worked in Music full time, I worked with quite a few blue chip organisations on outsouring projects"
J - "Oh, why don't you mention this in your blog?"
RT - "Because I had to sign confidentiality agreements, besides the arguments aren't about me and my experience, they are about the merits of the program".
J - "Shouldn't you declare an interest in your blog?"
RT - "I do, I declare an interest as a Barnet resident. That is the only relevant interest I have".
J - "Ok, and in your 'previous life' what experience did you have of evaluation of bids in tenders"
RT - "I was a technical consultant on two major contracts. On the first my job was to evaluate rival bids and on the second I was consulting on a bid for a supplier".
J - "How come you never talk about such relevant experience in your blog, whilst you talk about your dyslexia and issues with learning all the time"
RT - "Because I passioantely believe that dyslexia is a misunderstood issue. It hasn't held me back, but I have a lot of relevant things to say. As to the One Barnet bids, I've not been party to any of the information that I would have seen during my career as a technical consultant. I've just seen dribs and drabs. I have no desire at all to return to my former career. I only mention this now because you asked."
J - "So if you haven't seen the details, how can you be sure you are right?"
RT - "I am not sure that I am right. I have not seen enough information to make any such judgement call. I have however seen enough to state that on the balance of probability, these contracts have an unacceptable degree of risk".
J - "But you cannot prove it?"
RT - "Actually I can prove that on the balance of probablity there is an unacceptable degree of risk"
J - "But you can't demonstrate that One Barnet will definately fail and you can't prove that there will be no benefit".
RT - "From my experience, all you have to prove is that something has an unacceptable level of risk. A ten year contract in itself is a risk. One in four public sector outsourcing projects have failed. Put the two together and you have a dangerous mix"
J - "So what is your purpose writing a blog about it?"
RT - "I want to make the way Barnet Council conducts it business as transparent as possible".
J - "And what public transparency was there for the private sector bids you worked on?"
RT - "You cannot compare private and public sector bidding processes. I actually worked on a public sector contract and this was far more transparent that One Barnet. There was a sound business case and the contract duration was five years. In the US FOI decrees that all such bids are public domain after they have been evaluated, which ensures that bidders cannot pull any stunts, that doesn't happen in Barnet".
J - "do you think you've done anything other than add costs to the process for Barnet Council"
RT - "If the process is abandoned, then yes".
J - "You seem to have and ideological issue with outsourcing, why is this"
RT - "That statement does not represent my position, who did you say you are writing this piece for?"
J - " I am a freelance journalist and it will be used in a number of publications"
RT - "Name one"
J - "I'd rather not at this stage"
RT - "In that case I'd rather not continue the conversation, good day".
Sadly the number was withheld. I await with interest to see whether this comes out. I am curious as to whether the person I was talking to was really a journalist at all. I suspect that Barnet Council or the suppliers are using a professional PR firm to try and soften up the local opposition. I've spoken to lots of journalists about One Barnet and this was a new experience as far as interviews go. Maybe we just got off on the wrong foot though? Who knows.
I suppose when there is a billion quid at stake, anything can happen.